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Anne Michaels is one of my favorite writers.  Her “Fugitive Pieces” is one of my favorite novels.

In her novel, not only was she able to resurrect for me the most mystical places of Poland, like the city of Biskupin, but she also was able to draw a magical map of the most beautiful places of Greece, like the island of Zakynthos. And all of it in the horrors of World War II.

Her prose is mesmerizing and taunting.  Once you step into her world, you won’t leave.  Michaels’ words will be etched into you forever and you will be coming back to the source, to her world, to remember the nature of language, to understand memory, to learn how joy is lost, and how suffering becomes the fabric and essence of one’s life.  She will show you how to live, and how to die.

I know why we bury our dead and mark the place with stone, with the heaviest, most permanent thing we can think of: because the dead are everywhere but the ground.

Michaels knows how to make the reader her prisoner and her salvation.

You will be her prisoner in a small room and she will let you see just the blue sky and the blue water.  She will push you into the wall and let you hear what happens to your family, the people you love most.  She will bury you under the ground and will let you feel the roots of trees and grass.  She will place you under a coat of a giant and will let you hear his heart.

Her salvation comes with your remembrance of the world she created — of Poland and Biskupin, of Greece and Zakynthos, of Jews and the Holocaust, of the beginning of everything, and of the end of everything.

And she will reveal to you the beginning and the end of everything — like in the story of a respected rabbi.

The rabbi decided to travel disguised as a poor peasant on a train.  While on the train, he is ignored and even disrespected.  Later on, when the community learns that it was him on the train, they apologize to him many times for many months but are unable to receive his forgiveness.

Finally, they ask him what they need to do to be granted his forgiveness and he answers that he can’t forgive them because he was not ignored or disrespected. Instead, it was the poor peasant on the train who was ignored and disrespected.  He tells them that they need to seek forgiveness of the poor peasant on the train.

All this time you have been asking the wrong man.  You must ask the man on the train to forgive you.

According to Michaels, every word spoken, every gesture,  every action, and every thought  stays in the place of forever and can not be erased or changed.  The personal becomes universal in every single second of every minute of every hour of every day of every life.  And in this concept one can learn how to sustain life and how to escape death — in every single second of everyday.

But the rabbi’s point is even more tyrannical:nothing erases the immoral act.  Not forgiveness.  Not confession.

4 Responses to “Catching the fugitive pieces of our days”

  1. Your words give me goosebumps, Danuta. I am going to reread this book right away! I loved it the first time but I think your thoughts will add to the experience a second time.

    • danutahinc says:

      Thank you, Jennifer!
      I am just always amazed how much a good writer, like Anne Michaels, can say. Just think what she does with language. I feel like she invented a new language and she is able to describe something no one ever tried before.

  2. I did find her words mesmerizing. I’m sorry I misspelled your name above!